I reviewed Acer’s Swift 7 earlier this week and I really liked it despite some obvious standout things missing from the features list. Something that I took time to test was compatibility with various Linux distributions, because that is a very hit-and-miss experience on notebooks, with very few companies left actively testing their products against Linux compatibility. Lenovo and Dell do certify some products for compatibility, but Acer does not. However, if you wanted to buy the Swift 7 and run Linux on it instead, it’s a great option. Actually, it’s the best option.
I didn’t have time to do comparative benchmarks between the Swift 7 on Windows and Linux, partially because I wasn’t sure if things would work out properly. Plus, Firefox has optimisations on Windows that don’t show up on Linux, and vice versa, so performance isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison. All I have is my experience spread over two days with different Linux distributions on offer.
Fedora 26 was my first port of call, and after customising Gnome shell to my liking, I found it faster than Windows in generally every scenario. UI responsiveness was much better, app switching was seamless, browsing felt faster, and the WiFi bug I had that would cause my router to crash was gone (definitely TP-Link’s fault, but the Swift 7 exposed that very quickly). Battery life while streaming Youtube video was even equal on both platforms, something that I didn’t expect to find. With TLP installed, battery life under Fedora 26 climbed up to an astonishing seven hours with a Youtube stream running in Firefox. I would be fast asleep before the laptop would run out of battery life.
Everything else worked as expected – all keyboard controls functioned as they did in Windows 10, and the bundled USB-C adapters worked just fine with the expected USB 3.0 speeds. I didn’t see frames drop while streaming Youtube or Twitch video, and VLC player was perfectly capable of decoding UltraHD 4K H.265 video with low CPU usage. Even the webcam performance was a little better.
Ubuntu 17.04 was next, and it was just more of the same. Battery life was slightly under Fedora’s by about 20 minutes, but still above what Windows 10 achieved on the same hardware. Ubuntu didn’t require a kernel update, but I did it anyway, and there were no issues present. Even the Intel graphics drivers were offered to me through the driver menu, as expected. Unity’s polish meant that the experience was also about as good as it is on Windows 10. Both Fedora and Ubuntu had excellent tracking via the touchpad. I’m used to not seeing this level of compatibility on ultrabooks.
Solus Linux and OpenSUSE Tumbleweed were also similarly good experiences. On all distributions the brightness by default was cranked all the way up, and only Fedora’s user interface handled DPI scaling as well as Windows 10 did, though Solus’s desktop environment, called Budgie, looked pretty decent as well. I didn’t try an Arch distro, but at this stage I don’t doubt that Arch, or Manjaro, or Antergos wouldn’t perform just as well.
As a follow-up to my review, if you’re considering a Swift 7 and you’re not entrenched in the Windows ecosystem, blowing away the default install for your chosen flavour of Linux is the best decision you’re going to make. If it had a NVMe drive by default and still supported booting using the standard AHCI protocols, I’d even score it higher. It’s such a well-made piece of hardware, and I wish a Linux option was there by default.